U. Oregon speaker, former MLB umpire says gay athletes deserve more from schools

By Chris Cabot Oregon Daily Emerald

EUGENE, Ore. (U-WIRE) -- After 10 years of living his dream of working as an umpire in the premiere level of baseball, Dave Pallone's job was ripped from him by Major League Baseball as a result of a Sept. 15, 1988, New York Post article that revealed the secret that he had kept from the everyone -- including his own family.

On Thursday, Pallone spoke in front of about 30 people in the EMU Gumwood Room about his struggles as a gay man in a speech titled "Who's Really on First."

"My whole world at that moment came to an end," Pallone said about the day the story broke.

However, the Watertown, Mass., native who now lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., said that day was beneficial in some ways because it relieved an enormous weight that had been holding him down.

In 1990, Pallone's best-selling autobiography "Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball" was published, and he began touring the nation telling his story.

"I just hope we can get to the day when people know that people's sexual orientation has nothing to do with their performance," he said. "One of the reasons this room is not full to capacity is they feel that if they walk through the door people will think they are gay. Those stereotypes have to be removed."

During his professional umpire career, which included eight years in the minor leagues before calling his first game at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh in 1979, Pallone said that he had to live two lives.

"All I did was lie -- to my family, my friends, my peers and most of all to myself," he said.

With the stereotypes on homosexuals, Pallone had to decide between revealing his sexual preferences or working in baseball.

"I kept my dream and put my personal life on hold," he said.

Because of this, Pallone had formed no close relationships and had nobody to turn to. He was meeting presidents, Hollywood and rock stars and his childhood idols like Carl Yazstremski, Willie Stargell and Willie Mays, but he struggled in his personal life.

"When you have something good in your life, you want to share it with someone," he said. "I had no one to share it with."

After receiving a large settlement from Major League Baseball to walk away from the game he loved, Pallone went to opening day at Fenway Park on May 1, 1999. He watched the first pitch and left the park.

"I missed baseball so much, and that's when I decided to tell my story," he said. "Society and baseball -- they make you live in a box, and if you don't conform, they won't let you be in it."

Pallone holds the people in management positions to blame for much of the homophobia in athletics. He said that it is not the athletes because "they just want to win," but collegiate athletics directors and owners perpetuate the anti-gay sentiment in athletics.

"Universities don't do enough for their lesbian and gay and transgender athletes," he said. "There is someone out there, and maybe someone in here, who thinks about suicide every single day. I will never stop doing this until nobody thinks about suicide."

Throughout his years of touring the country to promote his message, Pallone has received approximately 120,000 letters from supporters and those who have told him that he saved them from suicide.

"That is why I do what I do," Pallone said. "One is way too many."

(C) 2002 Oregon Daily Emerald via U-WIRE.

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